For decades the historic Copper Beech Inn in Ivoryton set the bar when it came to fine dining. The award-winning landmark not only offered cozy accommodations, but was best known for its elegant open-to-the- public elegant main dining room and eventually its more casual tavern, Brasserie Pip. In recent years however, the inn and its restaurants were struggling with financial challenges.
Closed several months ago, the elegant landmark has emerged with new owners, a new look, and a new restaurant with a new name.
But most importantly is the new team running the place, general manager Klemens Zachhuber and celebrated chef Gaspar Stanic who are enthusiastic and committed.
"Our goal is to return it to its previous glory," said Zachhuber, a native of Austria, whose 20-year career in the hospitality profession has included Mohegan Sun Resort Casino in Uncasville; the Water's Edge Resort and Spa, Westbrook; The Ocean House in Watch Hill, Rhode Island; and the Madison Beach Hotel. "Not only by offering fine food, but a comfortable place where you can stop for a burger and a beer or a dinner out during the week or a multi-course gourmet meal for a special night out."
Closed for three-months, the inn and restaurant has emerged with a new look that maintains the historic integrity of the elegant building. The tavern area, now called The
Oak Room, includes additional dining space and an atrium. The main dining room, which is also scheduled for renovation, remains open for larger parties or those who request that seating.
There has been a general clean-up, including new wallpaper, painting and rearranging of the furniture for more comfortable seating. The driveway has been evened out and the main entrance rerouted from the porch to the side of the building, offering guests a chance to enjoy the refurbished garden and catch the first whiff of all the good things cooking inside as they walk in.
And that brings us to the award-winning, Stanic, who is bringing his international reputation and talent to the Ivoryton kitchen.
"I want a menu that when you look at it you want to eat," said the Vienna-trained chef and culinary Olympics medal winner who most recently owned Gaspar's New American Restaurant in New London. His resume includes working for Donald Trump and Leona Helmsley, and his restaurants have consistently received raves from critics and diners alike. And while he has spent the past couple of years consulting, Stanic said he found he could not stay out of the kitchen.
"I love my work. Cooking is my life," said Stanic. "I have worked to make this menu one that is about comfort and good taste."
He clearly cherishes his job and is a man who knows how to turn out an eclectic and inspired menu for every palate.
Begin at the bar for a quick weekday bite and choose from a lighter menu that includes bison burgers, fried calamari, steak and frittes and his specialty, pork tenderloin wiener schnitzel.
Or take a seat in the bistro-inspired Oak Room for something more substantial.
Stanic, who often comes out of the kitchen to make sure guests are happy with their meals, said he plans to change offerings regularly depending the fresh produce, fish and meats available from local purveyors.
Among recent menu items were prime beef tenderloin with foie gras au jus and wild mushrooms, organic breast of chicken with Romesco sauce and a Maine lobster salad with mango and nasturtium aioli.
The appetizers include jumbo lump crab cakes with orange salad and horseradish cream. They were sweet and fried just right. Copper Beet Salad was a pretty picture served over a caraway tuille, while French onion soup was something special with cheese ravioli and Swiss cheese crust.
The drink menu is also inspired with such choices as Model tea, an on-the-rocks libation featuring honey bourbon, orange pekoe tea and Crispin cider. The Blood and Sand is a rich, sweet blend of scotch whisky, cherry herring, sweet vermouth and orange juice.
For those who stayed in one of the rooms at the Copper Beech, breakfast was always an event. Now The Oak Room is open to everyone and anyone for breakfast.
Among the menu items, classic eggs Benedict, a granola parfait with house-made granola , honey yogurt and fresh berries, and a breakfast pizza with roasted tomato, basil and goat cheese.
Prices for breakfast range from $10 to $14. The bar menu ranges from $6 to $ 22, the main dinner menu from $18 to $36 and appetizers are from $2.50 a piece from the raw bar to $14.